Australian climber who cheated death on Mount Everest identified

An Australian who was rescued after he was stranded unconscious on Mount Everest has been identified as Gilian Lee.

Mr Lee's against-the-odds survival comes amid a horror climbing season, with 11 mountaineers reported dead or missing so far during the northern hemisphere spring.

Few details have emerged since news first broke of the miraculous rescue, which involved a yak and a team of Tibetan alpine specialists who were on the mountain doing repair work.

The team stumbled across Mr Lee at an altitude of 7500 metres on the northern slopes of the mountain on Wednesday last week.


Facebook posts from an account in Mr Lee's name indicate he was attempting to climb Everest without oxygen tanks.

The day before he was rescued, Mr Lee posted on Twitter that he'd had a "rough night" at Camp One, a waypoint on the path to the top of the mountain located at an elevation of about 6000 metres, due to a persistent chest infection.

Mr Lee's rescuers used a yak to drag him to the safety of base camp, where people embark on the trip to the summit. The Canberra man was reportedly taken to a hospital in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, where his condition has improved according to China Daily.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has refused to provide any other details about his dramatic survival story, citing privacy reasons.

'Every day of delay is a nightmare'

Mr Lee had documented his frustrations in the lead up to his Everest climb on social media throughout May.

"Plans getting worse by the day," Mr Lee wrote on Facebook on May 9. "Lot of wind at the summit from the south side direction."

He wrote that he was based at the Chinese Base Camp, which is less popular than the base camp on the Nepalese side, but that the Chinese rope fixing team who prepare the path for climbers had not arrived.

"Every day of delay is a nightmare," Mr Lee wrote.

And he spoke about the particular challenges of trying to prepare for an Everest ascent without using oxygen cylinders. Mr Lee said that without being able to climb higher than Camp One, he was unsure about acclimatising to the low oxygen levels further up the mountain.

"The science for acclimatisation for non-O2 [oxygen cylinder climbing] is not as well known. Does one really need to hit high high? Last year a higher point worked OK. It's all out of my hands … horrible feeling," Mr Lee concluded.

Climbing without oxygen appeared important for Mr Lee. When a friend queried his decision on Facebook, Mr Lee said that if he were climbing with oxygen "I might as well chop 50 per cent of the mountain height off."


He said he had summitted another extremely high peak, Manaslu, which is the eighth highest mountain in the world and also in Nepal, without oxygen tanks.

A day earlier, Mr Lee had been more optimistic, writing that his "support and sherpa team are looking strong and committed."

In a post on his blog, he described climbing Everest as "unfinished business" because of a failed attempt that he blamed on "being horrendously let down by the expedition company", which he called an inexperienced, Indian-run company.

"I have put a lot of pressure onto myself. I am running out of $$ to keep chasing this dream," Mr Lee wrote.

"I will never take supplemental O2, as it is just not me. It is like asking Alex Honnold to use a rope in his monumental solo climb up El Capitan. Defeats the purpose of being there in the first place in my opinion. This will be the last throw of the dice."

A mountain under strain

The heavy death toll from this year's climbing season has put the issue of overcrowding on the iconic mountain back in the spotlight.

Climbers have shared photos taken just below the summit, showing them queued up in a tight column, waiting for their moment to push for the summit.



Canadian adventurer and filmmaker Elia Saikaly said he was unlikely to ever return after the chaos he witnessed as he made the summit last Thursday.

Mr Saikaly returned from his eighth Everest expedition with a sense of abhorrence, saying he had watched people clamber over dead bodies.

"I cannot believe what I saw up there. Death. Carnage. Chaos. Lineups. Dead bodies on the route and in tents at camp 4," he posted on social media after making it safely back to base camp.

"People who I tried to turn back who ended up dying. People being dragged down. Walking over bodies."


He later told the Ottawa Citizen he was unlikely to make another journey to the summit.

"It's a really messed up thing to be in a position where you have to walk over a dead body," he said. "Do I think I'll go back? I don't think so. Not after this season. It was pretty horrific."

American doctor Ed Dohring, who made the summit a few days ago, told the New York Times it was "like a zoo" up there, with climbers jostling to take selfies and lined up chest to chest.

"It was scary," he said, describing how, like Mr Saikaly, he had to step around the body of a woman who'd just died.

Nepal's tourism authority has responded to the cluster of deaths by saying overcrowding is not solely the problem.

The authority's director general, Dandu Raj Ghimire, said other factors were involved including only very brief windows of fine weather during which climbers could push for the summit.

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Other veteran climbers have also pointed to the inexperience of some climbers and the pursuit of profits by climbing companies.

AAP with Nick Bonyhady